'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Nov. 6
Guests: Howard Fineman, Michael Moore, Derrick Pitts
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Good evening, this is Tuesday, November 6th, 364 days until the 2008 presidential election. And only at this point in our political history could a president who just set the unprecedented mark of 50 percent strong disapproval ratings and he was just had to acknowledge that in his fifth year of his adventure in Iraq has already become the deadliest for U.S. service personnel, only now could that kind of lame duck president successfully blackmail the Senate into approving an attorney general who will not acknowledge that precedent has already established that waterboarding is illegal torture and only today could the loopholer and chief use as his blackmail the threat of actually appointing somebody worse.
Our fifth story on the Countdown, presidential blackmail works, asks Senator Feinstein, ask Senator Schumer. Judge Michael Mukasey today recommended to the full Senate by its Judiciary Committee 11 to eight, despite his refusal to call waterboarding illegal, Senator Schumer of New York who recommended Mukasey to the White House, Senator Feinstein of California voting with the panel's nine Republicans to send him to the full Senate for confirmation. Both tried to justify their vote as the only response to fear that the president's plan b would be to use the recess appointment process to install a stodgier acting attorney general.
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SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D) CALIFORNIA: The president has said publicly that he will not send another nominee to the Hill. What does that mean? It means that for the remaining 14 months of this president's tenure, we will effectively have an acting attorney general. I believe waterboarding is illegal. But I don't believe that Judge Mukasey should be denied confirmation for failing to provide an absolute answer on this one subject.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK: We need a leader to take care of the Department not a caretaker as the president has promised if we reject Judge Mukasey. To accept such an unaccountable caretaker, I believe, would be to surrender the Department to the extreme ideology of Vice president Dick Cheney and his chief of staff David Addington without check.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: So, instead of defunding anything the president wants or otherwise standing up to him now, you opt to prevent an acting attorney general who would not be answerable to the Senate by approving an attorney general who has already not been answerable to the Senate. Senator Schumer adding in an op ed in the "New York Times" this morning that Mukasey will also support a new congressional bill currently in the works he says making waterboarding even more illegal than it is already. Quoting:
"On Friday, he personally made it clear to m e that if the law were in place, the president would have no legal authority to ignore it - not even under some theory of inherent authority granted by Article II of the Constitution, as Vice President Cheney might argue."
But as the Senate Judiciary chair Pat Leahy pointed out, the president does not have to ignore such a bill, he could just veto it as usual.
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SEN. PAT LEAHY, (D) VERMONT: Some have sought to find comfort in Judge Mukasey's personal assurance that he would enforce a future - a new law against waterboarding if this Congress were to pass one. What's sad for us is the fact is such prohibition would have to be enacted over a veto of the president.
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OLBERMANN: Senator Durbin pointing out the even more obvious fact that water torture is already illegal in this country indeed, we even prosecuted Americans for it 109 years ago and then our enemies for it after World War II.
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SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D) ILLINOIS: Some argue that we owe it to Judge Mukasey to pass additional legislation on the subject. So that he can clearly understand what the law is on waterboarding. I think the law is as clear as it can be. It was clear enough for us to convict a Japanese soldier of a war crime for using it.
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OLBERMANN: As for Republicans who spent months ignoring Democratic arguments that Alberto Gonzales and his cronies had politicized the Department of Justice, suddenly they all appeared to agree that politics has invaded that department.
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SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY, (R) IOWA: Judge Mukasey appears to be fiercely independent, which is a key quality that we want of an individual.
SEN. ORIN HATCH, (R) UTAH: I don't believe waterboarding is the real issue. The real issue is politicizing the Justice Department.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: The Department of Justice Senator Specter is really in chaos and we do need a new attorney general desperately. And the reason I vote - I'm going to vote yes or have voted yes is because I believe he is a man of the law, not politics. I think you made a very good case that this - he doesn't have a political patron to reward. He comes from the law.
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OLBERMANN: I'm joined now by "Newsweek" magazine's senior Washington correspondent and political columnist Howard Fineman. Good evening, Howard.
HOWARD FINEMAN, NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: There is something fundamentally flawed here. The next guy won't answer any of our questions so let's approve the guy who simply wouldn't answer one of our questions, the one about waterboarding. It's got to be more than this for Schumer and Feinstein, does there not?
FINEMAN: Well, I think in terms of the internal politics of the committee my sense is that not only is Dianne Feinstein sometimes a wild card, but she and Chuck Schumer work together on a lot of things. They watch each other's back. And I think in this case she is saving Schumer's behind here because Schumer thought this would be an easy sell. It turned out not to be an easy sell because even though Mukasey might not have a patron, he's basically taken the president and Dick Cheney's position on the law as it relates to reigning in the commander and chief. It really isn't about waterboarding. It's about the larger notion of Mukasey saying before the committee that he couldn't say that laws passed by Congress would have to be adhered to by a president as commander and chief. That's what this is really all about. But Feinstein, I think, did Schumer a favor here.
OLBERMANN: And Schumer's follow-up plan to this, which is let's make waterboarding explicitly illegal, in other words, make another law that might not be enforced and claiming that Mukasey likes that, there are three obvious flaws in there. It's already illegal. What if the president vetoed it? And what if he attached a signing statement to it? Is this really not a straw man on a Democrat's part?
FINEMAN: It's a straw man piled on straw man. As I said, Mukasey, if his testimony is to be believed, would not necessarily say that Congress had the power to do so. Although, in this specific case, he supposedly promised not only Schumer but Arlen Specter, the ranking Republican on the committee, that he would protest and maybe even quit if the president didn't follow the law. But, as you point out, the president can veto it. And I don't think Mukasey's promise to quit if Bush vetoes it. So, really, that's - the whole thing is a complete charade and the Democrats caved in here.
OLBERMANN: Yes, as pinned in and caved in upon as the Democrats look, it's not all Bush's doing here I mean, you know, some Democrats saying we can't go to war over this. If there are filibusters, if there's defunding of anything, a government shutdown we look bad and our seats and presidential candidate could be hampered next year.
FINEMAN: Well, I don't think it's just that. I think don't forget Mukasey presided over a very important trial of the blind sheik based on the first World Trade Center bombing. You know, the Democrats are skinny's on this issue as much as they care about the torture question. And I was told just a few hours ago that Harry Reid, the Democratic leader is going to vote against Mukasey and maybe 30 or 35 other Democrats will vote against Mukasey. But that means about 15 Democratic senators are going to vote for him. That shows you the fault line in the Democratic Party in that circular firing squad you were talking about before.
OLBERMANN: Last point. There is a debate that a British newspaper, "The Guardian" organized asked whether there are any circumstances in which waterboarding on an American citizen by a foreign intelligence agency could be justified and the senior advisor on international law, to Condoleezza Rice, John Bellinger replied baskly (ph):
"One would have to apply the facts to the law, the law to the facts, to determine whether any technique, whatever it happened to be, would cause severe physical pain and suffering."
Is that not another indicator that the other flaw in Schumer appeasing the president here is that the administration will just keep redefining the act? OK, waterboarding is illegal. Well, what you saw there was not waterboarding then.
FINEMAN: Yes, not waterboarding, water planking, water surfing, you name it. The key thing is I follow Senator John McCain on this and I have talked to him about it. You know, he suffered for five years in a prisoner of war camp in North Vietnam. He's an expert as far as I'm concerned. He says that waterboarding is torture. And that must make it so morally in this country.
OLBERMANN: Agreed. Our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine. As always, Howard, great thanks for your time.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Politics stood on its head in the House this afternoon, Democrats try to stop a debate on whether or not to impeach the Vice president. Republicans desperately trying to keep the debate alive. Congressman and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich stood up on the floor of the House to publicly call for what many of what his colleagues privately believe that the vice president should be impeached instead of supporting him his fellow Democrats could not move quickly enough to bury his resolution. Kucinich charged Cheney with knowingly deceiving the American public about Iraq and W.M.D., about al Qaeda's relationship with Saddam Hussein and with having violated his oath to uphold the Constitution.
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REP. DENNIS KUCINICH, (D) OHIO: The vice president's deception upon the citizens and the Congress of the United States that enabled the failed United States invasion of Iraq forcibly altered the rules of diplomacy, such that the vice president's recent belligerent actions towards Iran are destabilizing and counter productive to the national security of the United States.
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OLBERMANN: From that, the House dissolved into political shambles. Majority leader, Mr. Hoyer, quickly called for the tabling of the resolution with part of the Republican to call for a debate in order to force the Democrats to lay out their position on impeachment which then lead to Democrats going to the motion to go to committee which it was eventually buried this evening or was it? According to house procedure, Representative Kucinich could keep raising the impeachment resolution whenever he wants in the House because he introduced it in the forum of a privileged resolution. Watch this space as they say. Joining us now, Rachel Maddow, .the host of the Rachel Maddow Show on Air America radio, good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Alright, who got this wrong? Kucinich for handing Dick Cheney ad the Republicans some remarkably undeserved sympathy or the Democratic leadership for quashing the discussion whether we have a vice president unfit for office?
MADDOW: I think this is an easy one. I think it was the Democratic leadership screwing this one up. I don't know what genius political consultant has advised the Democratic leadership that it's a bad idea to spend hours of prime time on the floor of Congress reminding the country that Mr. 11 percent approval rating is a bad guy of whom they disprove and whom they would like to see held accountable. It's supposed to be politics 101 that you associate yourself with good things and that you are seen to frequently and rabidly denounce bad things. I don't know what kind of weird beltway (ph) consultant dictionary doesn't have a picture of Dick Cheney under the entry for bad things. It just seems like a real shortsighted move by the Democratic leadership.
OLBERMANN: Let me be the devil's advocate. I'm going to sound like about Cheney like Chuck Schumer about Mukasey. What about the scenario where you actually do this you impeach Cheney, he's convicted and thrown out in six weeks and Bush appoints his new vice president Rudolph W. Giuliani or Willard Mitt Romney. What happens then?
MADDOW: Well, the reason you impeach somebody is not because you hate them or because they are a bad guy. You impeach somebody because you want to save their office, because you respect their office and you respect the Constitution that granted the powers to that office that exists. And so you impeach Cheney in order to stand up for the Constitution, not because you think he's a bad guy though he is a very bad guy. And so whether it was Giuliani or Mitt Romney or actually my pick, the president's brother, Jeb, who they would replace him with, I think that's what you have to swallow in order to stand up for the Constitution.
OLBERMANN: If the vice president is, as you pointed out, down to nearly single digits in the polls and you are supposed to associate yourself with good things and stay away from the bad things or at least you associate yourself with trying to correct the bad things, did the Republicans miss a chance here? What if Republicans impeached Cheney? You know, take out one of your own as a display?
MADDOW: It's so against their political DNA to go for accountability, but it is actually, if in the big picture, it would be a great opportunity for them. Because not only could they have themselves a clean break with the Bush administration, which the country hates, but they could also set themselves up with an incumbent to run for president, which is why I always thought that they would retire Cheney somehow if not impeach him and bring Jeb up from Florida.
OLBERMANN: While there is still time. Last thing here, after the tabling of the resolution, the White House accused Congress of wasting an afternoon, I guess, again, by even trying to talk about impeaching Cheney. But, at some point, in the future again, at some point in our lives, are we going to see principles having to be addressed in a Mukasey case, the principle of a crazy vice president, not just held over as political chess pieces by both sides for the next election?
MADDOW: Yes, we really are. And I think that if you get outside, kind of beltway logic and you look at what's actually motivating people and inspiring people outside the Washington hype, you see that that stuff is really resonating. I mean, Ron Paul raised $4 million in one day yesterday as the antiwar pro-Constitution Republican candidate. Chris Dodd got his first uptake in the polls among the Democratic candidates by saying he personally put a hold on the unconstitutional FISA idea. Fighting works politically. Substantively, it's right that we ought to be doing these things for the soul of the country. But politically, fighting on the big issues, on the war and the Constitution works and they are going to have to get out of these consultants' back as ward approaches to things in order to see this non beltway through.
OLBERMANN: Rachel Maddow of Air America as always, great thanks for your time.
MADDOW: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Canadian Rush Limbaugh attacks another child. Not only despicable and deeply disturbing from the psycho analytical point of view, but worst for him the first two have already beaten him. And the state of Oregon with a novel concept - the tax on tobacco to pay for kids' health care. They are voting on it there today. Michael Moore joins us tonight. You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Comedian Rush Limbaugh may have been bullied when he was 18 years old and when he was 12 and when he was two. How else to explain his recent pensions (ph) for attacking kids of those ages. But, in our fourth story on the Countdown tonight we actually will not seek to provide comedian with such an excuse for latest transgression since he is an adult who should know better, all evidence to the contrary. And this time Limbaugh has gone red with insanity over green. His target Charlie Lockwood, an 18-year-old Yufek (ph) Eskimo who testified yesterday to Congress, a House Committee on Global Warming about the effects of climate change on her community of St. Michael on the west coast of Alaska. Ms. Lockwood said global warming had produced coastal erosion that in turn had caused houses and graveyards to fall into the bay. She spoke of sustenance food like moss and fish and berries dramatically decreasing. Enter comedian, who mistakenly thought, Ms. Lockwood was only 13 years old.
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RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: You've got to hear this 13-year-old girl. - I'm getting requests to hear this again. I know the requests really aren't to hear it this. The requests are for my reaction to this. This is Sheryl Charlie Lockwood, crying in House testimony.
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OLBERMANN: Yes, Mr. Limbaugh, for you and you say that those who listen to you it is all about your reaction. Of course, Limbaugh has attacked the 12-year-old boy and two-year-old toddler so, 13 would be nothing to him. If he had known she was 18 years old, Lord only knows what he would have said. But we know what he did choose to emphasize.
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LOCKWOOD: We have been living here for thousands of years and it's not just that we are losing our food, it's losing our homes and because we are spiritually connected and emotionally and physically connected to our homes and there are so many - so many communities that are in trouble.
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OLBERMANN: Comedian played the audio version of that and then he said this.
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LIMBAUGH: Yes, it's true. A lot of communities in trouble over a lot of things go to New Orleans. Talk about losing homes. - Sorry. I'm just reminded here of the old - remember the television PSA that used to run back in the old days when we were kids? Iron eyes Cody, the Indian, the native American, story, standing by the road side, as, you know, worthless Americans drive by on the way to their trailer parks and so forth, and throwing trash out the window. Turns out he wasn't - he was an actor made up but it doesn't matter. Little tear starts rolling down his cheek. Over, what, the White Europeans have done to his country.
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OLBERMANN: So, he compares the testimony of an 18-year-old actual Eskimo to an actor in a public service announcement from 1971 and manages to offend Native Americans in the process. He mocks invoked New Orleans, not seeing the irony that it was devastated by hurricane that could minimum easily have been preview of some of the long-term effects of global warming and just for good measure the comedian also said it was the Democrats exploiting a young child, not him. Ms. Lockwood has responded saying she would not let Limbaugh's comments bother her that she had wanted, quote, "About respect and treating people the way you want to be treated."
We want to treat kids who need health care, their families cannot afford. Oregon's citizens voting today on a noble answer, Michael Moore the day his movie "Sicko" hits store shelves on DVD joins us. Am I covered for this? Sir, you are either living with a crocodile or that woman needs a dermatologist fast. So fast you can't believe it. Next on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: One hundred and twenty years ago today, Walter Johnson was born. Certainly, the hardest throwing baseball pitcher of his time, maybe of any time, he won 414 games in 21 seasons. A statistic remarkable enough by itself but he clearly should have won more. Johnson pitched in the time before batters wore helmets. He was definitely afraid of killing one of them with the pitch. So, often he did not throw even near their heads. Plus, his Washington team finished last or next to last seven years of his career. If you project Johnson's performance on to the great New York Giants teams of the era, he would have won somewhere nearer 450 victories. On that note, let's play Oddball.
We begin in Thailand with this Japanese television report about a man who adopted a crocodile as his son. According to the report, the man was divorced and lost his job. He was completely down on his luck until the crocodile came in on his life. The man and man eating reptile gets along seemingly. Room for that lizard. Brushing his teeth. And the crocodile returns the favor opening his mouth as a wash basin. They were close they even share a bed holding hands as they sleep. It's getting creepy. Yes, like it didn't start out creepy. How about a bath after that?
Let's head to (INAUDIBLE) in France where it's another one of those pet-washing machines that takes all the fuss and mass out of grueling act of washing your (INAUDIBLE). It gets two minutes to go new to brand new, washed, rinses blow dried. The machines makers that the dogs love it. He hopped in there with a cocker spaniel for the TV cameras. And it's thumb up from the guy and not quite from the dog.
As Oregon votes on cigarette tax increase to fund increased child health care there as his movie about health care, "Sicko" is released on DVD. Michael Moore joins us.
Nothing worse, the man says solve the problem of Islamic radicals in Pakistan by killing every last one of them. Brilliant. And how do you identify every last one of them and prevent new ones from following them Sparky or did you not think this one through again. These stories ahead, but first time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world.
Number three, best job not blowing yourself up, an unnamed motorist in Boddington (ph), near Perth in Australia, arrested for drunk driving twice, with the police confiscating the car the second time. He then broke into the police impound lot, retrieved his car, drove it away and was arrested a third time for DUI. All this happened last Saturday.
Number two, best sense of humor, Fred Thompson; as they prepared for an interview, the earnest but misguided Carl Cameron of Fox Noise tried to hurry up his end of the process by telling the technicians, the next president of the United States has a schedule to keep. Thompson dead panned, so do I. There are worse things presidential candidate can do than make a self-deprecating joke about his campaign.
And number one, best stick-to-it-iveness, Charles Everson Jr. and his wife Linda of Westland, Michigan. They were driving along highway 150 near Rocky Point at Manson, Washington when they felt something hit the hood of their car. It put a huge dent in the hood. It broke the windshield. It was a falling cow, a 600-pound cow that had fallen off a cliff, a 20-story cliff. Now, the Eversons had to be filled in on all of this later because, uninjured as they were, after the unfortunate moo-er literally fell from the sky on top of them, they continued driving for about a mile down the highway.
OLBERMANN: President Bush likes to say that voters know best what to do with their taxes, and today in Oregon citizens are putting that theory to the test. In the balance are the lives of 100,000 children. Our third story tonight, Oregon tonight flash point in the national battle over health care for children of lower income families. On the ballot today, Measure 50, which would boost the tax on a pack of cigarettes from 1.18 to 2.03 and give 100,000 kids health insurance.
Supporters of Measure 50 have raised a little over three million for ads like this. With the backing of state Democrats and Oregon groups including hospitals, doctors, insurance companies, the PTA, seniors, fire fighters, churches, nurses, social workers, unions, the State Business Association and local chapters of the American Lung Association and the March of Dimes.
Opponents of Measure 50 spent almost four times as much, 12 million, with the backing of state Republicans and Oregon groups like R.J. Reynolds of North Carolina, Philip Morris of Virginia and Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform of Washington, D.C., best known for serving as front for Norquist's old pal, Jack Abramoff, all helping to make Measure 50 the most expensive referendum battle in state history, and a litmus test for the future of health care for America's kids, including the bipartisan SCHIP expansion which Mr. Bush enjoys vetoing so often we might as well start including it in the weather forecast.
Joining us now, health care documentary film maker Michael Moore, whose movie "Sicko" launched today on DVD. Michael, welcome back.
MICHAEL MOORE, "SICKO": Thanks for having me back, Keith. I guess, basically, the point is that the people in Oregon better keep smoking so the kids can get health care, right?
OLBERMANN: I'm trying to figure it out, because it is the Republican template here, make any public health care pay for itself, show some future savings, in this case the state of Oregon would save millions later for health care, for people who wind up not smoking. And you have the Democratic ethos to it, which is more health care for poor kids and reduce smoking. Why do Republicans - why would anyone not materially involved in the production of cigarettes oppose this?
MOORE: Well, that's a very good question. I guess the Republicans have kind of figured out that their days are up, and they might as well go out smoking or something. They are certainly not going to do what's right for the people. What's odd about it is you would think they would want to at least put up a fight to try to get re-elected next year, make it appear that they are for kids.
But, you know, I think what's sad about this is that there even has to be a referendum, and that you, again - like I said, you have to - you are going to have to depend on people to keep smoking so you can tax them so the kids can see a doctor. It's such a crazy ass way to go about providing health care for our citizens. Why don't we do it like every other western industrialized country does it, and provide free and universal health coverage for all of our citizens.
It's an easy thing to do. We have so many examples of how it can be done. What's the problem here?
OLBERMANN: Obviously, and you know what the problem is, that there is
that there are vast forces allied against it, and it likely is not going to happen instantaneously. But the one thing about Measure 50 that is so striking, the insurance companies actually supported it. What do you make of that? Is that like a horizon with a sun on it after six months of rain?
MOORE: Not really. The insurance companies are behind that, and they are also - actually they are behind SCHIP too, because, again, remember, they like the idea of tax dollars being spent on a health care system that essentially is still controlled by them and where our tax dollars go to them, where they provide the insurance. This is where, frankly, the Democratic candidates, the three front runners are wrong with their proposals, where they still are allowing the private insurance companies to have a seat at the table.
They have a vested interest in making profits, not in taking care of people who are sick. And so, you know, these plans, especially, I have to say, the Democratic plans of the three front runners are still going to be about siphoning our tax dollars into the private insurance companies. You need - they are the middle man that doesn't need to be there. They are the racket that is set up to - even when you have health insurance, you can't get help, because you have got a preexisting condition, or because the co-pay is too expensive, or the deductible is too much.
This - we just have to get rid of this and get behind the John Conyers bill in Congress, HR676. And that's the universal health care plan that the candidates need to get behind and the public needs to get behind.
OLBERMANN: All right. I get the point on this. But what I don't get, the one thing I have never really followed is, who profits if this is driven in so many quarters - in all corners by self-interest - where is the self-interest - who makes the money off the fact that 50 million people are not insured in any way?
MOORE: Well, the people - the insurance companies make the money by denying care. And, I mean, that's - and that's - I mean that goes back to Nixon when he and Erhlichman (ph) and Kaizer (ph) all came up with this HMO idea. where they said this is going to be really cool, because the less care that doctors provide, the more money we all make. And so that's been the system we have had since the 1970's. But your older viewers, people who remember the earlier days, when there was health insurance - my dad worked in the GM factories, UAW health insurance.
There wasn't all this business of these expensive co-pays and deductibles and you couldn't afford the medication. It was just you had health insurance; you got sick; you went to the doctor; you got well. That's where everything was going until, unfortunately, the last 20 or 30 years. And it's just been down hill since. Frankly, I think this isn't going to turn around with halfway measures.
I have to say, as much as I hope the Oregon thing passes tonight, ultimately that's not going to be the solution either, depending on people smoking to pay taxes so the kids can get help. What is wrong with us here? Just - let's just get to the business at hand, which is making sure every citizen is covered; when they get sick, they can see a doctor and not have to worry about it.
OLBERMANN: And we eliminate the real-life version of the old Monty Python sketch, which was literally the guy walks into his insurance agent's home or office and tries to get a payback off his claim, or make a claim, and the guy goes, I'm sorry you signed for our never-pay policy.
We have it now, and it's 40 years ago. In the movie, in "Sicko," you showed a clip of the president speaking to a woman who has to work three jobs to support her kids. And instead of seeing this as some sort of issue that he might want to do something about, he says, boy, it's great. It's uniquely American. What vision of American did he reveal there?
MOORE: His and the Republicans and corporate America's vision, which is that the rich get richer and everybody else fights for the crumbs. Everybody else has to work harder, work longer hours for less pay, less benefits, less vacation time. And we have been on a bad roll with this. Unfortunately, these last seven years - this has just been a disgusting time. You know, actually, I just had dinner with a friend here in Michigan tonight, who - he has Parkinson's and he said to me, you know, seven years ago this week, when that election was stolen, that night that was my death sentence, because he knew then there wasn't going to be stem cell research. There wasn't going to be the money dedicated to this.
You know, the things that America used to be great at, of tackling problems and going after what seemed to be the impossible and making it happen, those days were gone. And he was saying how, you know, this is - he is not going to live as a result of these - what's happened in these last seven years. That's a tragedy. And there is a tragedy happening every night here in this country as a result of this. I'm just - I'm just hopeful that we will be able to turn this around next year. And I'm - I'm demanding, as are millions of citizens, that the Democratic presidential candidates get with the program here, and do what is necessary for the people. Halfway measures don't work.
OLBERMANN: Michael Moore, his latest documentary movie "Sicko" hitting stores in DVD form today. If you haven't seen it, you must. As we all signed up voluntarily for that never pay policy.
MOORE: Thank you very much.
OLBERMANN: All the best, Michael. Thank you.
MOORE: Thank you, sir. Thank you very much.
OLBERMANN: What exactly does this woman have to do to get people to stop buying her records? Britney Spears, not among the nation's, say, top 3,000 celebrity parents, but number one on the charts? And we have won in Iraq. So says Senator Joe, just like he said in 2004, 2005, last spring. It's a tough call for tonight's Worst Person ahead on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: The show business theory that any publicity is good publicity may never have been more true than it is in tonight's number two story, Keeping Tabs. She has come across as a train wreck or a putz. She keeps forgetting her underwear. Some of her friends begged people to boycott her latest recording release in hopes of shocking her into reality. So, of course, it's number one.
Britney Spears' new album, "Blackout," is on track to reach the top of the charts. Her fifth number one album, according to "Billboard Magazine," projecting sales of more than 350,000 copies in its opening week of availability. The album getting surprisingly good reviews too. The record industry especially impressed, since Spears is refusing to do any traditional publicity appearances to promote her work. Actually, maybe that's helping.
A number of presidential candidates have dropped out already; Tommy Thompson, Sam Brownback, to name two. But the biggest loss of all may be the latest drop out, Stephen Colbert. The Bill O'Reilly Dopple-ganger, the conservative blow hard who really means to be funny, actually out-polled Democrat Dennis Kucinich and Republican Ron Paul in one national poll. But Colbert says he is calling it quits after South Carolina's Democratic Council rejected his application to be on the primary ballot there by 13-3. Colbert calling that the slimmest margin of loss in presidential election history.
His message to supporters, the dream endures, but I'm going off the air until can I stop weeping, or perhaps this is about the fact that a comedic candidacy required comedy writers, and they all went on strike yesterday.
Looking for a new home? We may have a new solar system. For the first time, a fifth planet has been found revolving around a distant star. That's next, but first time for Countdown's worst persons in this world.
Number three, the Chicago Police Department. You can see what they were thinking, but still. The City Department of Aging sent them to the home of 82-year-old Lillian Fletcher (ph) after a tip that Miss Fletcher was home, alone and in need of assistance. They knocked. She wouldn't let them in. She suffered from schizophrenia and dementia. Police forced the door open, so she went and got her hammer. So they tasered her. She is 5'1, 82 years old and there were several cops, and she had a hammer and they tasered her. Now she has fluid on the brain and may need brain surgery.
Runner-up, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who is remarkably still in the United States Senate. I'm proud to say, he said in a speech, that the tide has turned in Iraq and we are winning that war. If we don't let down our troops, they are going to bring home a victory that will protect us here at home from today's threat, totalitarian terrorist Islamism that's trying to take our liberty from us.
Don't forget the troops will also bring each of us a lifetime supply of ice cream. Let's see, May 2007, Lieberman says in Iraq, what I see here today is progress. December 2005, the last two weeks may be seen as a turning point. January 2004, we have to stay the course in Iraq. If we do that we will have won a victory in the war on terror. Yogi Berra may have said it's never over until it's over. For Joe Lieberman about Iraq, it's over both early and often.
But our winner, Glenn Beck. While admitting that the suspension of democracy in Pakistan doesn't have anything to do with Islamic extremists, he is still using it to - well, let me just read this. He is saying Pakistan has failed to stop them and, quote, there is one thing in my book they haven't tried yet, and that is killing every single one of them, of the radicals. He brought this up as if he were the first person ever to think of wiping out an entire group of people.
Apparently Sparky hasn't yet figured out the small problems with ethnic cleansing or genocide or mass murder. One, you rarely get them all. Two, they often figure out what you are trying to do and take steps to stop you. Three, others replace them and occasionally seek vengeance against you. Four, there's usually a very high ratio of innocent bystanders wiped out during all of this. And five, there is the whole ethical, moral, you're now as bad as they are dilemma.
Glenn Beck, 50 million dollars can't buy you sanity, today's Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: Another Space Shuttle, after a dangerous but successful mission, is about to come home, as NASA announces, in our number one story on the Countdown, that we have also moved closer to the jackpot of finding another planet like our home. The new planet is the fifth one found in a planetary system that looks increasingly like our own solar system; 41 light years away in the constellation Cancer lies the star 55 Cancri. This is what it would look like if, say, Southwest flew there.
Astronomers had already detected four planets circling it. Now they have announced a fifth. That's a record for a planetary system outside our own. Of course, we just started to look recently. The new planet's distance from the star places it squarely in the habitable zone, where temperature makes liquid water possible.
In fact, the planets around 55 Cancri, shown in the top portion of this illustration, reside in orbits that are stunningly similar to our own solar system, shown in the bottom portion of the graphic.
Meanwhile, back here, the Space Shuttle Discovery will come home tomorrow, descending for the first time over land since the Columbia disaster in 2003.
Let's turn now to the man who helps us out of these jams whenever we get into them, the chief astronomer for the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Derrick Pitts. Derrick, good evening.
DERRICK PITTS, ASTRONOMER, FRANKLIN INSTITUTE: How are you, Keith?
OLBERMANN: Not bad. Let's get to the Space Shuttle secondly. But first, another solar system, how nice? And there is a habitable zone which sounds great to me. What's a habitable zone.
PITTS: A habitable zone, Keith, is the place where it's possible that if there is water, it will be in a liquid form. This is a distance from that particular sun where the temperature drop off from the sun has come down to somewhere between, you know, 32 degrees and 212 degrees Fahrenheit. So this is a place where water can exist.
Now, of course, that doesn't mean that we can actually live there, necessarily. There are a lot of other factors that have to be considered. But at least it leads us down the path of possibility.
OLBERMANN: The planet that's in the relative position we are to the sun, to this star is, unfortunately, is like, what, 50 times bigger than the Earth. But its moons are also proportionally bigger, so they might have the prospect of supporting water.
PITTS: The planet is 50 times bigger than Earth. But it's a gas giant, meaning that it's very much like the planet Saturn here in our solar system. So it's mostly just frozen gas. But if it had moons - and scientists suspect that it probably does - if any of those moons are rocky, it's possible that there could be liquid water there. And that's what they are looking for. That's what will be next on the agenda to look for.
OLBERMANN: There was an astronomer at the National Science Foundation who said the significance of finding basically a full-fledged solar system with a habitable zone planet, or planet with moons, in a relatively short period of looking is cause for wonder; that if we have already discovered this much, it's only a matter of time before we find planets with perfect conditions to support life. Do you buy into that.
PITTS: Well, Keith, the story is that the astronomers who have done this work recently to discover this fifth planet are getting better and better at it. It's just a matter of getting better over time, with better tools and better software products. They are better able to sight these smaller and smaller objects.
So as we get into this win, and looking for planets that are much more like Earth, they will have better tools to do it. I would say, in the next decade, we will get the tools that will make it possible for us to find something that is the size of Earth, which is what we are really looking for.
OLBERMANN: Five planets is a record. It's like saying on the first day of professional sports, this was the record for most home runs in baseball or something like that. It's early yet.
Let's turn over to Discovery for a moment. It hauled a new room to the International Space Station, sent an astronaut on a dangerous, but successful space walk to repair a solar panel. Now the shuttle is going to descend over land. Why do that again, even just in terms of reminding people of what happened four years ago? And is there any concern this time?
PITTS: Fact of the matter is, Keith, that it's no riskier to fly in over land than it is to fly in over water. They wanted to get the space shuttle down at a particular time. This was the path that coincided with the de-orbit that they wanted to do to get back on time. So there really isn't any difference between land and water.
You know, if you look back at the 2003 destruction of Columbia, it wasn't the land that caused the breakup of the space shuttle. It was the failure of the tile system. This time the tile system looks just great. So there is no worries.
OLBERMANN: Finally, we have got a comet in the northern sky visible to the naked eye, once in a life time event. Why is an exploding comet that rare?
PITTS: It's because we don't get to see these very often. You consider that if there is a comet that is bright enough that we can see it with the naked eye, it's got to be unusual. That's the situation with this. It's just unusual. We have had some in the last few decades. But you never know when the next one is going to come, Keith. That's the point.
If it's there now, see it now, rather than bet that there is going to be another one in your lifetime.
OLBERMANN: I'm leaving right now. Mr. Science himself, Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer at Philadelphia's Franklin Institute. As always, a little bit of learning in the middle of a news cast. Thank you, sir.
PITTS: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That is Countdown for this the 1,651st day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. From New York, I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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